SBC Communications in talks to buy telecommunications rival AT&T, reports say

Thursday, January 27th 2005, 9:41 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ SBC Communications is in talks to acquire AT&T Corp. for at least $15 billion, a deal that would likely mark the demise of the one-time icon known as Ma Bell, according to published reports.

The talks are considered ``fluid'' and ``very, very sensitive,'' The New York Times reported Thursday, citing unidentified executives. The Wall Street Journal said executives have met sporadically over the past few weeks and that no final decisions have been made.

AT&T shares rose $1.35, or 7.3 percent, to $19.80 in early trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange, while SBC shares fell 53 cents, or 2 percent, to $24.05.

An AT&T acquisition would give San Antonio-based SBC a company that still has a sizable list of government and corporate clients for long-distance and other telecommunications services, despite years of financial struggles and customer losses.

AT&T, founded 120 years ago by Alexander Graham Bell, handled the nation's telephone calls before it was broken apart 21 years ago in a federal antitrust lawsuit. It still has nearly 30 million long-distance customers.

SBC, a product of the breakup and the nation's No. 2 regional phone company, has about 50 million local-phone customers, mostly in the Midwest and South.

AT&T declined to comment on the reports. Spokesman Jim Byrnes cited a policy against discussing ``rumor or speculation about mergers, acquisitions, divestitures or other business combinations.''

A message left for SBC was not immediately returned. The papers said SBC had declined to comment.

The Times said a deal would likely cost SBC more than $16 billion.

In July, Bedminster, N.J.-based AT&T said it would no longer market new residential long-distance business. But the company is still aggressively seeking to sign up homes for Internet-based phone service.

Last year, AT&T slashed 12,500 jobs as it retreated from the consumer telephone business.